A few months ago one of my girlfriends came for a visit. Patrick was recovering from his arm surgery and not feeling well and my kids were super ornery and crazy. During this visit my friend asked me if having kids was really worth it because she was considering not having any. In the midst of my chaos with Patrick not feeling well and my kids having a horrible day I did not give the best answer. For the last few months I have been meaning to give her the response I wanted to give her but didn't in the midst of a bad day. I realize that many of her views are different than mine. We all come from different backgrounds, different beliefs, and have been through different struggles. This may not be the response she is looking for but since she asked me I will answer.
On occasion when I have an extremely challenging day with my children I do imagine what it would be like to not have them in my life and all the responsibilities that come with them. For the briefest moment I think, "I could go on dates with my husband anytime I wanted, I could take more vacations, I wouldn't have stretch marks, I could go out with friends more often, I could have finished college faster, etc." For the most part this is probably true. I may have been able to do some or all of these things.
When I was first married we did go out and do things more often; we went to more movies, went to more social events, went to more plays, and we just went out more period. We enjoyed spending time with each other and had a lot of fun. I was more free with my money as well as with my spare time. Most of my time was spent thinking about myself and my life with Patrick. About a year and half later I got thrown a curve ball. Braxton was a planned pregnancy; however, I didn't feel like I was the one choosing the timing. The Lord was.
When I got married I swore I would NEVER be one of those girls who had a baby and tried to finish college; they were crazy. The plan was to finish college and then have a baby or get pregnant a few months before graduation. Then I felt the "nudges." Not from other people (my Mom defiantly could have waited) but from the Lord. I tried to ignore them at first because now was not the time to be thinking about having a baby. I didn't even tell Patrick for a little while. Over the next few months I felt like the Lord changed my heart and I knew that it was the right time to think about it; of course thinking about it turned into getting pregnant after 3-4 months. Patrick and I had discussed it and both felt right about it. To be honest I needed some change. It's not that I didn't love spending most of my free time with Patrick it's just that we both felt that there was something more to be added to our marriage.
Looking back I can see that having Braxton (and Carston) did change our marriage. For the first few weeks after we learned just how awful we could be to each other with practically no sleep. However I have also learned a lot of other things that are far better and outweigh any "cost" or "price" you may feel comes with children. I'm not denying that they are a sacrifice and that it is hard but it is meant to be a sacrifice. It wouldn't mean as much to you if it weren't painful as well as a sacrifice of self. It puts a whole new dimension to what your marriage means as well as how you define yourself.
It has made my marriage stronger than I imagine it ever would have been without having children. It has made me more grateful for a loving husband; motherhood has allowed me to see qualities in Patrick that I never saw before and to come to love him more deeply than I think I ever could have. I have come to appreciate him even more as he has sacrificed for both my happiness as well as my boys happiness. I appreciate our alone time together so much more and (most of the time) make better use of the time we do spend together.
In coming to understand and define myself being a mother has allowed me to see just how important working together with God and my husband are. It has forced me to stop being so selfish, to become more patient, to be humble, to be grateful, to be more accepting of others and their challenges, to push myself past my limits so that I become better.
Every so often it's okay for me to picture my "dream" life without my children. However, if I really think about how my life would look without them it would be heartbreaking. Motherhood is worth it now and forever. If I never got to hold a newborn baby in my arms that was mine, if I never saw my baby smile for the first time, if I never heard a first laugh, watched a first step, cried with them because they were in pain, shared their joys, missed hearing them say, "I love you Mom," watched when they make new friends, watched them play, watched them eat food for the first time, watched them fail, watched them become better, heard them singing to a crying sibling to try and make them feel better, didn't get sloppy goodnight luvs and kisses, didn't watch them grow at all because they were never born….I can't imagine the regret I would feel knowing that I could have had all those opportunities to experience such profound joy and didn't take it because I wanted an illusion of what I thought life would be without those "responsibilities."
I don't understand when our society decided that motherhood was such a burden instead of a blessing but they did. I can see the "burden" side of it but I don't think that some people can see past the burden to the blessing that children are. I'm not a perfect mother and I know it. The fact is that for me life is all about making more out of yourself than you think you can and enjoying the journey with people you love. Kids can be hard but there is no substitute for them. Spend all the money you want and you still won't end up as happy as you could have been. I'm telling this to myself as much as to anyone else. Motherhood is meant to be a sacrifice. Just like education is meant to be valuable because it is earned and comes with a price so is motherhood. I value my education more because I am a mother and it took me longer and required so many sacrifices for me to finish.
Even as I write this I am still being selfish in listing ways that motherhood has helped ME; guess that means that I still need to have more children. Anything that is worth it to me in the end is worth working and worth fighting for. I can't imagine watching my own funeral only to hear that I was a decent person who did great things with my career and was a good wife. I'm not saying any of those things are bad but what I want to leave on this Earth is a piece of myself, the good part that is, and I want to leave it in the lives of my children and grandchildren. I want scratches and heartaches to have been made right because of me. I want to watch my babies faces when they sleep, hold them when they cry, kiss away ouchies, and set a record for peanut butter sandwiches made per minute. I want to watch my children become adults, to watch them grow up and learn, to grow, to do great things, to watch them become parents, and watch them serve others and make the world better. I can't think of any greater ability or calling than being able to give another person life.
This last statement by Elder Todd D. Christofferson sums up exactly how I feel. "In all events, a mother can exert an influence unequaled by any other person in any other relationship. …A mother’s love and high expectations lead her children to act responsibly without excuses, to be serious about education and personal development, and to make ongoing contributions to the well-being of all around them. Elder Neal A. Maxwell once asked: “When the real history of mankind is fully disclosed, will it feature the echoes of gunfire or the shaping sound of lullabies? The great armistices made by military men or the peacemaking of women in homes and in neighborhoods? Will what happened in cradles and kitchens prove to be more controlling than what happened in congresses?""